For the Love of Annabelle

On February 29, 2008, Annabelle Hope Vince came into my life. Though I’d had a dog as a child, as an adult I’d never wanted one and wasn’t particularly fond of them. When my friends would talk about their dogs—refer to them as their “children”–I would roll my eyes and shake my head. I didn’t get it.

I was a cat person. I had two of them and they were perfectly good company. I loved them a lot. But I wasn’t all “gaga” about them. Not the way that every dog owner I knew was. And then, for reasons I still can’t explain, around the end of 2007 I started feeling like I wanted a dog. More than wanted, actually. Needed.

Annabelle at 4 months. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince.

Annabelle at 4 months. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince.

I needed a dog. And a few weeks later, Annabelle Hope came into our lives. And our lives have never been the same. While we still have our cats, and couldn’t love them more, Annabelle has taught us both new lessons about unconditional love. And patience. And joy in the simplest things in life. She is, in every respect, our furry “child.” [So is her brother Max, who came into our lives a year later, but that’s another blog entirely.]

On Thursday I will be taking Annabelle to the hospital at UC Davis, where she will undergo a liver biopsy and be hospitalized for two days. My husband and I have known this for several weeks, and have agonized over the decision to put her through such an invasive procedure, but after doing all the non-invasive tests with no conclusions, we know that the only way to get the answers we seek (and hopefully a treatment that might save or extend her life) is to do the biopsy.

I’ve been told by a friend who works as a physician at UC Davis that the veterinary hospital there is second to none. They have operating rooms with surgeons and anesthesiologists. They have an ICU where dogs, cats, horses, etc., are on ventilators. People come to UC Davis from all over the country with their sick or injured animals. And we’re lucky enough to have it in our own back yard.

And yet, we still wonder if we’re doing the right thing. What if there are complications (bleeding being the most common with a liver biopsy)? And, she only weighs 9 pounds—what if they give her too much anesthesia? Now, in the final few days before the Big Day, every time she plays with her favorite toy I wonder, will this be the last time I get to watch her in all her glorious sillines? Will this be the last night she sleeps with her head on my shoulder?

And I wonder if, after handing her over to strangers who will do “bad things” to her for two days, she will still be the same trusting, loving dog she’s always been. Will she forgive me? Because I know what it feels like to have that trust betrayed when you’re unable to understand what is really going on.

I was five when it happened to me. My sister and I were fighting. She chased me down the stairs. I stood at the bottom and peered up at her, wondering if she was going to come after me. She didn’t. Instead, she sought her revenge with words. And they injured me worse than any form of sisterly punishment I could imagine.

“Ha ha, you’re to the hospital tomorrow to have an operation.”

Wait, what?

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

My mom tried to explain that I had a hernia (probably from giving said sister a piggyback ride—at least that’s my story), and that the only way to fix it was to operate. I begged my mom to change her mind. I promised to be good and never hit my sister anymore (even in self-defense). But the following morning, before the sun even rose, my daddy lifted me out of bed and off I went to the hospital. I remember clinging to him and screaming when it was time for surgery.

And now, on the eve of doing the same thing to my furry child, I imagine that the decision my parents had to make regarding my surgery—discuss and try to rationalize with a 5-year old or wait until the morning of and blindside her—was a very difficult decision.

I did forgive my parents (and my sister), and now have a new level of appreciation for all the decisions parents have to make on behalf of their children (furry or human). All we can do is make the best decisions we can and pray they are the right ones. Unfortunately, more often than not, the right ones are the hardest ones to make.

What about you? Have you had to make a difficult decision that affected the life of someone you love? How did you deal with it?

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It’s Release Day: Life, Take Three

It’s Release Day for my second book Life, Take Three!!

*drops confetti, toots horn*

Confetti

To celebrate the occasion, I am giving away a FREE copy (Kindle only) to the first three people to leave a comment below.

In addition, Life, Take Three is part of my BOGO offer, valid until December 24, 2014. CLICK HERE for details.

Happy reading!!

Life Take Three Smaller Cover

 Groundhog Day meets Heaven Can Wait

Attorney Isabel Stevens’s life is in a downward spiral. On the worst day of her life, she is killed in a fatal car crash. After discovering a loophole in the No Returns policy in heaven, Isabel is given a one-time opportunity to relive the last day of her life. The only rule? Everything must happen exactly as it did the first time around.

With the help of a guardian angel, Isabel begins to see where her life went off course. When the day is up and she returns once more to heaven, she pleads for the opportunity to go back and make things right. Her wish is granted, but when she learns the price she must pay, she begins to wonder whether she’s up to the task. Determined to find a way out of her dilemma, she accepts the terms. Will she succeed and live to see another day? Or will she defy the agreed-upon terms and suffer the consequences?

BUY your copy today!

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Cyber Monday BOGO Book Deal

Buy One Get One Free Sale

It’s CYBER MONDAY, and to celebrate the occasion, I am offering a Buy One Get One FREE deal, beginning today.

Here’s how it works:

  • Buy either one of my books (Kindle format only) and I will gift a copy of either book to you or someone of your choosing
  • Email receipt of purchase to me at: Suzanne@suzannevince.com
  • In the body of the email, include the name of the FREE title you would like, the name of the person it should be gifted to, and the email address associated with said person’s Amazon account

That’s all you need to do!

CLICK TO BUY

Offer valid through December 24, 2014.

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For the Love of Jack

Jack1

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

Meet Jack. A four pound Maltese dog. But he’s more than that to his mom, Karen Chamberlain. I asked Karen to stop by today to talk about Jack.

“Why don’t we start with what Jack means to you.”

“Jack is my child. I know that’s hard for some people to relate to, but he really is, that’s really how I feel about him. He came into my life when he was just 9 weeks old and 1 lb., at a time in my life when I wanted someone to take care of, someone to look after apart from myself, and it’s been my joy to love him and care for him ever since. He’s more than my dog, he’s my baby, and my soul mate. We have a connection that goes beyond owner and pet.”

Jack2

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

On November 11, 2013, thieves ransacked Karen’s apartment in Studio City, California, and stole Jack.

“When the thieves took him, they ripped out part of my heart, and his.  He’s just waiting for me, he’ll always think he’s in a temporary life and that mom will be there soon and take him home.  That’s one of the hardest things about this, knowing that he was scared, knowing that he’s still confused, and not being able to do anything about it.”

Theft of pets, especially pure-breeds like Jack, is on the rise:

 

Karen is offering a $5,000 reward with a no-questions-asked return policy.

While there was nothing Karen could have done to prevent Jack from being stolen, I asked her what people can do to protect their pets.

“First, microchip them.  It’s NOT a GPS tracker, but it’s the only way to tie your pet to your name and contact information (a collar with tags is great if your dog or cat wanders off and some kind person finds them, but if they’re stolen, that can be removed, so do both). Be sure to register the chip and keep up the registration. And then there are the obvious things: don’t leave your pet unsupervised where they can be grabbed—your yard, tied up outside a store, etc. Most dogs are stolen because they’re easy marks. Treat them like you would your child, because that’s how they feel about us–we’re they’re world, they don’t want to be apart from us, and when they’re taken away, they can’t find some kind policeman or helpful adult and tell them what happened.”

I asked Karen what she’s done to find Jack.

“I’ve done pretty much everything that anyone has suggested: a Pet Amber Alert and a Home Again alert; I was on the local news right after it happened, and again recently when ABC7 did a story about pet theft; I’ve posted and distributed fliers all over L.A., and to groomers and vets. I’ve handed them out at pet-related events; I’ve worked with a private detective; started a Facebook page for him that has brought together animal lovers from all over who have been unbelievably supportive and have helped look for him, both online and by pounding the pavement; I’ve posted on various lost pet sites; placed bumper sticker magnets of his flier on my car and on several friends’ cars; scoured the internet, the animal shelters, Maltese rescue sites, craigslist, ebay, etc.); I’ve even talked to animal communicators and psychics. I also pray and meditate.”

Karen will never stop looking for Jack. Will never stop wondering where he is and if he’s okay. If he knows his mom is looking for him and how worried she is about him.

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

If you’ve ever known the love of animal, then you understand the depth of Karen’s love for Jack. And perhaps a bit of the devastation she feels every day that her fur baby is missing.

Jack3 Jack is Missing

What can you do to help?

“A good friend is always reminding me that ‘it just takes one’—one person can make all the difference. So the more people who are aware, however we can reach them, the more likely we are to find that one person. Jack was most likely sold pretty quickly, which means he could be living anywhere now. And he could very well be living with someone who doesn’t  even realize he was stolen. So spreading the word is vital.”

And if you happen to see a pup that looks like Jack?

“If you think you see Jack, and you can (without putting yourself in danger) get a picture of him, you can text or email me, along with information about where he’s living, that’s great. I guess it all depends on the circumstances you see him in.If he’s with someone who is easy to talk to, who seems like the kind of person who’d be horrified to know they have a stolen dog, then it’s likely they’d be willing to talk to you. Show them Jack’s flier, ask them to call me.  If he’s with people who don’t seem safe to approach, well, that’s harder. I don’t want anyone putting themselves in harm’s way. But let me know where you think he is, and if you can sneak a photo to text or email me, then I can see if it’s him and take steps to recover him. I truly, truly am not interested in where or how or from whom they got him, I just want him back.”

No matter where you live, please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends. Help Karen bring Jack home. You never know, you could be the one person to make a difference.

Find Jack on Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/HelpFindJackTheMaltese
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23jackismissing&src=typd
email: lost_jack07@yahoo.com
call or text: 818-452-8722

Please use hashtag #JackisMissing.

 

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Life, Take Three

A few weeks ago, as I was doing a final read-thru of my upcoming release, Life, Take Three, I thought, wow, I really love this story.

My first thought? That sounds really conceited, Suzanne. My second thought? But why? I mean, if I as the writer do not love what I write, how can I expect a reader to love it?

And then I started thinking about why I loved this story so much. The answer is that, though neither the story nor the characters bear any resemblance to me or the events in my life, the general themes of the book mirror the aspects of life that I hold most sacred. Here are just a few:

Love. Isabel Stevens has spent her entire life seeking the most elusive prize of all: her father’s love. Only when she stands up to her father and reclaims all that she gave up in order to earn his love does she come to understand that her father’s love was there all along.

Faith. In God, yes, but more than that is the belief that there is more to life than meets the eye. In Life,Take Three I write about the afterlife and about destiny. I’m not sure I believe that events in life unfold in exactly the same manner as they do in the book, but I do believe that nothing in life happens by accident.

A sense of humor. Isabel’s life is in shambles (she even admits that she has become a stark raving bitch) but she never loses her sense of humor.

What about you? As a reader, do you tend to read books that speak to you and make you think about life? Or do you prefer to escape reality and seek solely to be entertained?

If you’re a writer, do you include elements of yourself in your writing?

Life Take Three Cover FINAL

 Groundhog Day meets Heaven Can Wait

Attorney Isabel Stevens’s life is in a downward spiral. On the worst day of her life, she is killed in a fatal car crash. After discovering a loophole in the No Returns policy in heaven, Isabel is given a one-time opportunity to relive the last day of her life. The only rule? Everything must happen exactly as it did the first time around.

With the help of a guardian angel, Isabel begins to see where her life went off course. When the day is up and she returns once more to heaven, she pleads for the opportunity to go back and make things right. Her wish is granted, but when she learns the price she must pay, she begins to wonder whether she’s up to the task. Determined to find a way out of her dilemma, she accepts the terms. Will she succeed and live to see another day? Or will she defy the agreed-upon terms and suffer the consequences?

Life, Take Three is available now for Pre-Order. Click here to reserve your copy today.

 

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Mad Libs: The Antidote to Writers Block?

Writers Block

For weeks now, I’ve been completely consumed by a major system implementation at work. Long, exhausting days have led to unproductive nights of writing (more precisely, starting at a blank screen) and going to bed even more frustrated than I was when I left the office.

I haven’t written a single new word on my WIP in months. I haven’t even written a new post for my blog. I have, however, been able to work on edits and getting my second book ready for publication. But still, I haven’t felt the joy that writing new material brings in far too long.

And so the other night, determined to change the tides, I sat down to write a blog post about a movie I’d seen over the weekend (The Judge) and how it made me think about my relationship with my own father. On the drive home, my thoughts flowed like lava. But when I booted up the laptop and sat down with a blank screen? Nada. Not a darn word in two hours.

Frustrated, I crawled into bed and contemplated the situation. I thought about the two types of posts I usually write for my blog. The first is life matters. The deep thoughts that make me contemplate life. I love thinking about and interpreting life in ways that make me grow as a person.

Mad LibsThe other kind of post I typically write involves some kind of humor (could be sarcastic wit or something that I find gut-wrenchingly funny). That’s when I realized that it had been far too long since I’d laughed. I’m talking about the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes. That kind.

The problem was, I wasn’t feeling particularly funny. And then an idea struck like a thundercloud. Mad Libs. Remember those (and unless you’ve lived in a cave for the last forty years, you should)? The otherwise benign stories with little blanks that you fill in with random words (verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc) that make the story really funny?

And so, I queried my Facebook friends for an assortment of words and came up with this. I hope you enjoy.

The Criteria (words to be inserted below)

  1. A woman’s name                                                   15. Body part
  2. Time of day                                                          16. Adverb
  3. Feeling/emotion                                                     17. Feeling/emotion
  4. Body part                                                              18. Feeling/emotion
  5. Adjective                                                                19. A comfort food
  6. Body part                                                               20. Profession
  7. Fruit (plural)                                                           21. –ing verb
  8. Body part                                                               22. Exclamation!
  9. Number (20 or higher)                                            23. Furniture
  10. Adverb                                                                   24. Number
  11. Room                                                                    25. Body part
  12. Noun                                                                     26. Something cold
  13. Number                                                                 27. Body part
  14. Number                                                                 28. A man’s name

Menopause is Funny

The Subject: Menopause (because it’s funny, right?)

Marlena awoke one evening feeling rather jealous, and not only that, her uvula was gangly and touching her foot. She fanned her pomegranate, wiped sweat from her neck and realized there was only one explanation. She was only twenty-one years old and she was facing menopause. To be sure, she slowly made her way to the attic and jumped on the puppy. Ah ha! Just as she suspected. She was fourteen pounds heavier than the night before and there were seven new wrinkles on her ankle.

Her emotions began to swing adventurously from angst to happy. She needed a meatloaf ASAP! And where was the phone? She had to call the Writer to do something about her kissing. No answer! “Oh my gravy,” she screamed before falling on the umbrella stand in a fit of tears.

Nine minutes later she didn’t remember a thing till her belly button began to cramp and a milkshake-like chill made her buttocks quiver. Someone was going to pay for this, and it might as well be Brad.

Be honest, did it make you laugh? Did you ever use Mad Libs at parties when you were young?

Tune in next week when I take a scene from my current work in progress and Mad Lib it! In the meantime, drop a comment below and provide a few words for next week. I need body parts (be creative but keep it at least R rated), a physical description (of a person), adverbs, a direction, verbs (ending in ‘ed’).

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The Meaning Of Life

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

In honor of the Kona Ironman World Championship tomorrow, I would like to share the amazing story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father and son duo whose story epitomizes the words love and devotion.

After being deprived of oxygen at the time of his birth in 1962, Rick Hoyt was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. As a result, his brain cannot send the correct messages to his muscles. Because of the severity of Rick’s condition, his parents were encouraged to institutionalize him because there was no chance of a recovery or of Rick living a “normal” life.

His parents, Dick and Judy Hoyt, wouldn’t hear of it. They were determined to give Rick every opportunity to live as normal a life as possible. Rick’s mother spent hours every day teaching him the alphabet and at the age of 11, Rick was fitted with a computer that enabled him to communicate. At 13 he attended public school and went on to graduate from Boston University in 1993.

Team Hoyt began in 1977 after Rick read an article about racing and became inspired. His father, Dick Hoyt, then 37, was not a runner.

But for his son, he became one.

After their first race, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” After their first five-mile run, Dick began running every day. When Rick was at school, Dick ran with a bag of cement in the wheelchair.

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick and Rick Hoyt running first Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Team Hoyt began racing nearly every weekend, and to date the father-son duo have competed more than 1,000 endurance events, including 70 marathons and almost 300 triathlons. They have run the Boston Marathon 30 times, and in 1992 they biked and ran across the US, completing 3,735 miles in 45 days.

And they have completed six Ironman Triathlons.

Ironman will push the limits of even the fittest athlete in the best imaginable conditions. Imagine swimming 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean. Imagine biking 112 miles through barren lava fields with 45mph crosswinds and temperatures up to 120 degrees, and running 26.2 miles in temperatures that can average 95 degrees in the shade.

Now imagine doing that while towing another human being.

Dick pulling Rick on swim. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick pulling Rick on swim. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

For the swim portion of a triathlon, Dick attaches a rope to his body and pulls Rick in a boat. For the cycle portion, Rick rides on the front of a specially-designed tandem bike. For the run, Dick pushes Rick in his wheelchair.

And Ironman courses, by design, are never flat.

Here is their story:

Dick Hoyt is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard. Now 73, he and Rick spend less time racing and more time doing speaking engagements. For more information, visit Team Hoyt’s website at www.teamhoyt.com.

What about you? Who or what inspires you?

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Week 1 Post Mastectomy-Still Waiting on Fluffy Kitten and Unicorn

In recovery room.

In recovery room.

When I planned for the seven weeks of leave that my bilateral mastectomy would require, I made a list of things I hoped to accomplish during this time. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Watch the first three seasons of the show everyone is talking about, Downtown Abbey
  2. Learn the words to every John Mayer song
  3. Finish writing my current Work in Progress
  4. Finish final edits on my debut novel, and seek out beta readers
  5. Receive fluffy kitten and a unicorn

What I didn’t count on was the reality of the toll such a major surgery would take on my body.

And why would I? I mean, I do cross-fit twice a week, I run and do yoga. I’d bounce back from this quickly, right?

Um, yeah, about that.

What I didn’t count on was the pain that redefined the 1 through 10 pain scale. What I used to think of a 7 or 8 now has new perspective. On day 2 I felt pain that was off the charts even after an injection of Dilaudid and two tablets of Percocet.

Another thing I didn’t count on was the emotional outbursts. On Day 5, over a bowl of Greek yogurt and fruit I began to sob for no apparent reason. I’ve had several of these crying jags and now no longer question them.

Maybe it’s all just a part of the process of accepting that my life has been forever changed. And so has my body.

One day soon, after a second surgery, I’ll have beautiful, perky breasts but right now I have lumpy, bumpy bruised clumps where my breasts used to be. Touching them freaks me out. Looking at them makes me cry again.

And the last thing I hadn’t counted on was being possessed by Zombies. They let you think you’re in control but I’m on to them now. They’re sneaky little devils who turn your mind to mush, make you drool and cause you to wreak untold havoc on the world when you’re asleep. And despite the fact that I’ve been off the narcotic since Day 5, they’re still working their evil.

At home watching the first episode of Downtown Abbey. Again.

At home watching the first episode of Downtown Abbey. Again.

For example, I’ve watched the first episode of Downtown Abbey no less than seven times. The first three times was because I didn’t remember having watched it already. The next four times was because the characters, the setting and the storyline changed every single time I watched it. I’m SERIOUS!

What has helped is the love and support from all of you. I cannot express how much it helps to know that there are people out there—plenty of whom I’ve never even met—who have stopped by my website or sent a Tweet or FB Message to let me know they are thinking about me. *being crying jag* Please, keep them coming. My husband and my sister, Pamela, have done a wonderful job caring for me, and I love them dearly for it. But your messages mean a lot. Especially since it doesn’t seem that I’m going to receive my fluffy kitten or a unicorn. *resuming crying jag*

Update: This is a repost from 2013. I’m happy to report that I did in fact receive an ample supply of unicorns and one fluffy kitten.

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Attack of the Killer Sleeping Bag

Spooky Halloween Images

It’s October. Time for raking leaves, eating candy corn and making costumes for our children. In a few week’s time, the streets will be filled with ghosts and goblins. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve invited a special guest to get you in the mood for the festivities. So pull out your Ouija board, invite a few friends over and serve up some hard hot apple cider.

Elaine Calloway HeadshotMy guest today, Amazon Best Selling Author Elaine Calloway, writes ghost stories set in Southern towns. Originally from New Orleans, she grew up with a love of Gothic architecture and all things supernatural. She is currently writing the contemporary fantasy Elemental Clan Series as well as the paranormal/humor Southern Ghosts Series.

 

And so, without further ado, here she is. Take it away, Elaine!

* * * * *

Thanks you Suzanne for letting me guest blog today!

I’ve recently started writing and releasing a Southern Ghosts Series, and that got me to thinking about the ghost stories we told as kids. The things that made us jump in the middle of the night, the eerie feeling we would get on the back of our necks.

At one slumber party, we were asked to bring our sleeping bags but most of us wound up sleeping on the playroom floor. At one point (it must have been during a deep REM sleep) I woke up. Instantly, I felt strange, eerie. The tiny hairs at the nape of my neck were standing on end. My hands shook. Everyone else was asleep, but all I could see was a random shape.

Horror flooded through my veins as my mind reeled with what to do next. I was certain this was a strange person who had broken in. Someone–or something–that would be determined to hurt me. For several minutes, I sat completely frozen and afraid to move. What could I do? I couldn’t even get the screams out.

After waiting several moments in silence, I finally decided I’d had enough. If this person or thing wasn’t going to attack me, I was going to attack it! And I did. Turns out, it was my sleeping bag someone had placed next to me, and the shadowy room made it look like a human being.

Elaine Calloway Book Cover

We all love ghost stories. They entertain, frighten, and heighten our emotions. I hope you enjoy my first in the Southern Ghosts Series, NO GRITS NO GLORY, Click here to read more.

Connect with Elaine online at http://www.elainecalloway.com.

What about you? What’s your favorite part about Halloween? Do you have any good ghost stories to share?

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Breast Cancer Self Exam: Your Man Reminder

Your Man Reminder

As a recent breast cancer survivor, and in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I’d take a moment to remind you how important it is to do regular self-exams.

I’ve invited a few of my friends to show you how. Please be sure to watch until the end. You won’t be sorry!

So go ahead, Touch, Look and Check. And drop a comment below to let me know if you enjoyed the video!

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